Sizing Up Bob Barrby Doug Mataconis
Mark at Publius Endures takes a look at the possibility of Bob Barr as the Libertarian Party standard-bearer:
The first thing I would say is that the LP could do a lot worse than Congressman Barr. Although he most certainly had a less-than-libertarian track record in Congress on things ranging from the Drug War to gay rights, he has clearly experienced a change of heart on many or most of those issues. Many libertarians are rightly suspicious of this conversion.
I can say with a pretty strong degree of certainty that those suspicions are incorrect. Although I have no idea what the former Congressman personally thinks of gay rights on a local level these days, he has quite clearly come out against the Federal Marriage Amendment, and did so almost immediately upon its introduction- and before he joined the LP.
As others have noted, he has also been fairly open about the fact that he has changed his position completely on the War on Drugs. In addition, he is now an extremely vocal opponent of the Patriot Act.
Many libertarians have noted that although Barr, as a Congressman, took several significant steps to weaken the Act, those steps were horribly insufficient. While this is true, it’s worth noting that the Patriot Act was passed just weeks after 9/11, at a time when rational thinking was (understandably) almost impossible to come by; the emotions of that day were just too fresh in our memories. It was clear to most people that there had been horrible failures of government, and that those failures led to the attacks; thus, steps needed to be taken to prevent future attacks. For the average non-libertarian at the time (a group in which I include myself), and I believe, even for many scared libertarians, the Patriot Act seemed to be a strong step in that direction, regardless of its flaws. That Barr – at a time when he wasn’t even a libertarian (small “l” or otherwise) – was one of the few people rational enough to see that it went too far and needed to be pulled back is to me an extremely strong argument in his favor.
Moreover, Barr has done an extraordinary amount of work to try and weaken or end the Patriot Act since he left Congress. His dedication to civil liberties in recent years has been far more than just a token effort done to bolster his libertarian credentials; frankly, his record on that front in recent years is something that ought to be the envy of just about every single libertarian and Progressive.
On balance, I believe Barr will be a more credible proponent of liberty than Ron Paul was, although he will lack the glamor and media attention that come with a run in a highly competitive, high-profile Republican primary campaign.
Regarding the Iraq War, Barr will be able to speak in a knowledgeable way that Ron Paul could not, which will give him far more credibility on the issue than Paul was able to get outside of anti-war activist circles. As such, he will be much less susceptible to charges of just being “anti-troop” or of simply “blaming America first.”
In addition, he will not have the obsession with the Federal Reserve that Paul had, which hurt his ability to appeal to mainstream voters.
On gun rights, there are few people in the country who can speak with greater credibility than Congressman Barr.
Sounds good to me.